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Reviewed by Will Harris
"How I Met Your Mother” is still the new “Friends,” dammit.
Bullz-Eye were pretty much fans of the series from the time it premiered in the fall of 2005, and we tried our best to keep other folks in the know about how it was, pound for pound, one of the funniest sitcoms on television (even if we mistakenly referred to it as being filmed in front of a studio audience in a Premium Hollywood posting). When the first season ended, we raved about the DVD release, and we were convinced that the show would finally get its due as people watched the reruns over the summer; unfortunately, it still seemed to go pretty much under the radar, and it stayed that way through its second season – so much so, in fact, that not even the cast members seemed 100% certain that a third season was imminent. As history has revealed, the show did score a third season, but now that it’s out on DVD, let’s take a look at Season Two and see if we can figure out why it still isn’t a massive hit.
(Four discs and 22 episodes later…)
Aaaaaaaand…we’re done. And we still have absolutely no freaking idea. But you probably don’t believe us – and that’s reasonable, given how incredibly partial we are to the show – so we’re at least going to try and explain why it should be the only other show besides “Heroes” that should be at the top of your “things to talk about around the water cooler” list on Tuesday mornings.
The thing about “How I Met Your Mother” that probably has people less than enthused about it is that, on the surface, it seems like nothing more than a gimmick: it’s narrated by its lead character, Ted Mosby, from the future, as he tells his kids all the various tales about the events which eventually resulted in him meeting their mother. People hear about the concept, and they think, “Oh, okay, so it’s like ‘The Wonder Years.’” Well, it is in the sense that it’s an ongoing coming-of-age story, with Ted (Josh Radnor), Robin (Cobie Smulders), Marshall (Jason Segel), Lily (Alyson Hannigan), and Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) working their way through that awkward period after college where you have to be an adult but you don’t want to leave all of the late nights and drunken carousing behind. And, yes, like the whole Kevin Arnold / Winnie Cooper saga, there’s a certain percentage of the viewership that’s tuning in mostly to see Ted finally meet his kids’ mother. (Those people, by the way, probably were pretty disappointed with Season Two, since Ted spent the entire season in a relationship with Robin, who, it was established in the very first episode of the series, is not his kids’ mom.) Once you’ve taken the future-Ted narration out of the picture, however, you’re left with a show that’s not really anything like “The Wonder Years.” If anything, it’s more like “Memento,” given the way each episode is structured in such an explicitly detailed manner where we’re presented with a scenario and spend the majority of the next 23 minutes finding out how that scenario came to be.
Yes, the wheels of Ted’s quest for his true love were left spinning for the duration of the season, but it gave viewers the opportunity to find out more about his character as well as Robin’s. If we didn’t already suspect that they weren’t really meant for each other, then we were given plenty of reasons this season why it would never work out, not the least of which was the revelation that Robin was once a teen pop star in Canada. (That particular episode, by the way, also introduced the concept of the Slap Bet, a comedic concept which will continue to play out on the series for some time.) Since the first season ended with Marshall and Lily breaking up, we were privy to their gradual reconciliation and their slow realization that, yes, a wedding was still in the cards for them. And Barney…well, as ever, Barney was one of the most quotable people on prime-time TV.
- “You know what Marshall needs to do? He needs to stop being sad. When I get sad, I stop being sad, and be awesome instead. True story.”
- “You are in the heart of Bachelor Country, and as a woman, you are an illegal immigrant here. Now, you could try to apply for a sex visa, but that only lasts twelve hours...fourteen if you qualify for multiple entry.”
- “In my body, where the shame gland should be, there is a second awesome gland.”
- “Discouraging premarital sex is against my religion.”
- “Oh, Robin, my simple friend from the untamed north, let me tell you about a little thing I like to call ‘mind over body.’ You see, whenever I start feeling sick, I just stop being sick and be awesome instead. True story.”
Oh, yes, and he also managed to provide many, many single men around the country with the perfect note to leave on the pillow when sneaking out of the apartment of their latest one-night stand:
Dear Resident: The time we spent together, however long it was, meant the world to me. I would love to see you again, but, unfortunately, I cannot. You see, I am a ghost. I can only materialize once every decade, on the anniversary of my death. I chose to spend my one day among the living with you, sweet resident. Perhaps we will meet again, in another decade…provided you keep your figure. Until then, all my love from the beyond, Barney.
If you’re still not swayed, we’ll throw out that Season Two featured more inspired guest stars, including Michael Gross (“Family Ties”) and Cristine Rose (Mama Petrelli on “Heroes”) as Ted’s parents, Bryan Cranston (“Malcolm in the Middle”) as an egotistical architect at Ted’s office, and Jane Seymour as a professor of Marshall’s with whom Barney is smitten, mostly because he can’t seem to satisfy her sexually. Emmitt Smith makes an appearance during the show’s brilliant Super Bowl episode, Wayne Brady plays Barney’s gay half-brother, which completely takes the heat off the whole “but, wait, but he’s black and Barney’s white!” angle, and Bob Barker pops up when it’s revealed that Barney is convinced that Barker is his biological father. Also, if you’re keeping score, there are appearances from three more members of the Joss Whedon Players: Morena Baccarin (Inara from “Firefly”), Tom Lenk (Andrew on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”), and Harry Groener, who played the evil mayor on “Buffy.”
Season Two of “How I Met Your Mother” ended less with a cliffhanger than the pronouncement that the playing field was once again wide open for Mr. Ted Mosby. Will we finally meet the mother of his children in Season Three? You know, after spending Season Two without making any headway yet still laughing our asses off, we realize that we hardly even care anymore; we just want to continue being able to enjoy these characters for as long as we can.
Special Features: Again, the cast, writers, producers, and director have all gladly leapt into the fray to provide commentary on several episodes, which are invariably entertaining and illuminating. There’s also a gag reel, a featurette which basically provides a “day in the life” look at the show, which includes an awesome moment where a couple who are fans of the show get to be extras in a scene and the guy proposes to the girl on the set, and three “What Really Happened” segments which offer up alternate versions of scenes that couldn’t be aired on network TV. (They’re not that much racier, but they’re still funny.) Lastly, there’s a really creepy video for “Hey, Beautiful,” the song by The Solids which, in decidedly shorter form, serves as the show’s theme song, and the video for Robin Sparkles’ “Let’s Go to the Mall,” and while Hey, Beautiful” is good, it’s Ms. Sparkles’ song that’ll get stuck in your head for the long haul.